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A Surgery Worth Hearing About

October 2, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

A Surgery Worth Hearing About

Being able to hear properly is important for a child's language and speech development.  Now people who can't hear out of one ear have a new treatment option in Sioux Falls.

Five-year-old Jacob VanderStouwe is enjoying his first year in school, including library time at Canton Elementary.  But he does have an extra obstacle to overcome.

"Sometimes it's hard for the teacher to know if he's just not paying attention of if he can't hear her," mother Tali VanderStouwe said.

Jacob was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss in his left ear at three-years-old and hearing aids were not strong enough.

"We want to make sure he has the best education possible and to do that he really benefits from having hearing in both ears," VanderStouwe said.

But thanks to a fairly new surgery, patients who have lost hearing out of one ear can now get the sensation back of hearing out of both ears.

"Before that they would still have their good ear, and they basically just had to rely on that.  But there's good evidence that shows that, both as children and adults, we require auditory input from both ears," Sanford Dr. Patrick Munson said.

During the Baha Surgery, doctors make an incision into the skull and place a titanium implant. That implant naturally integrates with the skull. Then a second surgery is done where a sound processor is connected to the implant.

"Once it has the processor on, which is a little, postage-stamp-sized hearing aid, the sound signal comes to the hearing aid, and it vibrates that implant in the skull.  And then that vibration sends the signal to the good ear so they are able to hear," Munson said.

Jacob looks forward to the sensation of hearing out of both ears. He's already had the first surgery done. He'll get the processor put in just in time for Christmas.

"It's two surgeries; that's always scary as a parent.  But after thinking about it, we knew it was the best decision for Jacob," VanderStouwe said.

Because hearing out of both ears should help Jacob not only in the classroom but later in life.

Dr. Munson has performed three Baha surgeries so far at Sanford, but he did dozens of others when he worked in Arkansas.

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